Thursday 30 November 2017

We are running out of volunteers

it seems.
There is yet another small piece in today's paper about the lack of volunteer fire fighters. It should have been a front page headline.
We need volunteer fire fighters. 
It's a dangerous job. It's horribly uncomfortable too. It requires skill. The people who do it need to be trained. Time needs to be devoted to that. Money is needed for equipment. I could go on.
Our state government does not seem to appreciate this. They certainly seem unwilling to face just how serious the situation is. Oh yes, they set up the "Emergency Services Levy" - a tax on everyone to fund these services. 
The problem is that the money isn't going where it should be going.
I am not sure how the state government thinks a major outbreak of fire in the hills behind us would actually be fought.
And then the government is also complaining that there aren't enough volunteers in other areas either. That's hardly surprising. They have made it much more difficult to volunteer now. It isn't just the "police checks". Most people don't mind those - although paying for them is an issue. There are the other issues. There is the compulsory "OHS" training - occupational health and safety training.  One of the workers at a local charity shop complained that a "young thing in her 20's came and told us to wash our hands after handling the clothes that came in". It isn't something the volunteers do anyway they do it thoroughly. The woman in charge also makes sure that the facilities are kept particularly clean. As she said to me, "You never know where things are coming from."
And there are the insurance issues. The cost of insurance keeps rising and, if nothing else, you need public liability insurance.
I am occasionally called in to give assistance with paperwork or help in writing a letter. Now the manager is worried that someone who is coming to inspect might say something and try to stop her using me in that way. No, the police check is not an issue. What is an issue is that they aren't supposed to provide that sort of help anymore. A person needs to be sent on somewhere else. 
Actually that's the last thing they need. They need help there and then. They might well not go on to the next place. It all gets too hard.
Of course there is a need to ensure that people are safe and trained to do the job but there is also a need for commonsense and the ability to call in someone who can do the job.
If people are willing to go out and risk their lives fighting fires and if women well over the age of 80 are still willing to give up a day a week and do an excellent job in the local charity shop then the government needs to be saying "thank you" rather than making it more difficult.
You see, when the volunteers run out it is going to cost everyone more.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Tea - the making thereof

but not the Japanese "tea ceremony".
I know almost nothing about the Japanese "tea ceremony" apart from that it is apparently long and complex and takes years to master.
I know a little about making tea however. I have made thousands of pots of tea in my life. 
The Senior Cat has tea mid-morning and mid-afternoon - and sometimes at other times. A friend has tea whenever she arrives. My automatic reaction to W...'s arrival is to put the kettle on. Other people turn up expecting tea too.
I thought I could make tea until I was at university in London. There I came across S.... Her family owned, and presumably still do, half the shares in a very large tea estate. The brand is a household name. 
S... knew about tea. Every so often she would head off to some point in London and get her own, specially blended variety. She would bring back other varieties for people to try too.
And she taught me how to make tea - all the while complaining about the lack of rain water with which to make it.
Tea starts with having the pot ready to use - no use trying to get it after the kettle has boiled.  
Tea is made with loose tea - never a tea bag.
The kettle is filled with cold water that has never been heated before. It is preferable to use rain water.
You bring the water to the point where it is almost - but not quite - boiling. 
You warm the pot quickly by pouring in just a little water and swirling it around.
You add tea according to the number drinking it and the strength you require as well as the variety of tea. (There are no rules about this. You learn these things as you go.)
You pour on the amount of water you require. The tea should actually "fizz" slightly if the water is just at boiling point. This means the oxygen is being released and this will enhance the flavour of the tea.
You allow the tea to "steep" - but not for too long. Again, the time depends on the variety and the strength you require.
If you take milk S...'s view was that it came after the pouring of the tea. Ditto sugar.
I am not sure why anyone would want sugar in tea - except for cases of shock.
I won't claim to be an expert but I know "non-tea drinkers" who will say,
    "Oh if Cat's making tea with rainwater then I'd like some".
Middle Cat disagrees with all this. She was taught to make tea by a Fijian-Chinese woman who says the water should never boil. The Senior Cat says this is nonsense and the above method is the only way tea should be made.
Tea with water boiled in the microwave is an abomination which should never be allowed.
All I know is that tea made the way described above tastes much better than tea made with a tea bag with water from an urn.
You may disagree - and if you know another way to make tea that tastes like tea should then please let me know.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

The election campaign has

This state goes to the polls next March. It's a fixed term government so the date has been fixed since the last election.
I don't like the idea of fixed terms. Certainty? Yes, that's a good thing. Getting rid of a government which is not performing or has done something improper or illegal? Apparently impossible.
The present government needs a shake up. Although it is claiming "underdog" status sources tell me they are still "very confident" they can retain power, especially since the planned return of a political identity.
But it isn't just that. 
We have the state's Education Minister holding out for more funding. She is claiming that the state is "losing" around $230m in funding. Actually we aren't. The money was never there in the first place. Of course she would like it. No doubt everyone in the state would like it but it was never more than a "perhaps" and then only "if" many people agreed to many things. 
In politics of course that makes no difference. You simply tell the voters the naughty federal government is diddling the state out of a lot of money. Yes, people will believe it. It doesn't matter which flavour of state or federal government you are talking about - or even if they are both left or both right (or central) - it is something which can be used as an election issue.
And then there is the "big" announcement in this morning's paper. This involves the major development of a tourist attraction to make it "world class".  At present it is an interesting but small wildlife park. The plan is to turn it into something big and glitzy - hotel, shopping mall and more, complete with cable car and tree top walkway.  
Maybe. There have been other big plans announced before. There is a zoo outside the city which is at the site of what was supposed to be a "satellite city". The city has never eventuated - possibly because people don't want to travel that far to work in the city or the surrounding suburbs. It may happen when the land runs out down here or it might not.
I can think of two major problems with the announcement made in this morning's paper. One of them probably, almost certainly, applies to the satellite city. That's water. A lot of people require a lot of water. Where would you get it from? We already tend to have water restrictions in summer because the dams in the hills don't hold enough for the increasing numbers of backyard pools being built. The other problem with the proposed wildlife park development is the location. It's in an area where a fire could be disastrous. Trying to get a lot of people out very quickly could be extremely difficult - if not impossible.
So, it might sound good if you like that sort of thing but I think there might need to be a lot more homework done.
Oh well, I guess it's part of the election campaign.

Monday 27 November 2017

Taking a gap year

is still considered "controversial". 
   "It's like a year long holiday" and "they get out of the work habit". Then there is "they can't afford to be a year behind everyone else" and "maths students should never take a year out" or "if they are really serious then they will just get on with it " and "it looks bad on a c.v. - employers don't like that sort of thing".
Ms W has a close friend whose older brother has just finished school. He should do well...and he is off on a gap year. He's going to Italy - which is where his grandparents came from - and he is going to "brush up" his Italian and get to know his extended family and work at the vineyards they own. When he comes back he plans to go to university.
His parents support the idea but they have been criticised for doing so. His sister, Ms W's friend, told me that, even with plans in place, his parents are being told that he shouldn't do it. He should go straight to university. I saw his mother briefly when she came to pick her daughter up and she raised her eyes to the sky and said,
     "We think it might be very good for him. He wants to go. He's going."
I said, "It's a plane journey away - and if you can't trust your cousins who can you trust."
She smiled and said,
       "It's just as well they have grown up."
Yes, I've heard a tale or two about their escapades when young.
But I thought of all that this morning when I saw a small piece in the paper where a large proportion of university graduates are saying their degrees were "a waste of time". They are not using the knowledge gained. 
It makes me wonder yet again whether a "gap year" should be compulsory for everyone.  (If it really is a problem with maths students then make arrangements accordingly.) I certainly think language students should head off for a year and live in the country of the language or languages they will be studying. It would undoubtedly raise their level of understanding of the language. Almost any other choice of career will benefit from learning to get along with a greater variety of people and experiencing new ideas and places even within your own country. A gap year working abroad will help you grow up - fast. 
There was a girl living not far from us who was "just fed up with study". Her results were excellent but it had been very hard work for her. She told me, "I can't just keep it up for another four years. I need a break."
Against the wishes of her family she did take one. She used the money she had saved from her part time job, bought a plane ticket and headed off to Europe and a job working with a family. The first job did not work out. She actually feared for her safety. It almost made her head home but the agency she had applied to took her worries seriously - indeed very seriously - and they offered her another position. She didn't look back then. The family was busy and often chaotic. She was the one who had to organise and remind and get things done.  They didn't want her to leave and they still keep in touch. 
     "It was the best thing I could have done," she told me on her return. 
Her brother backpacked through Europe doing menial jobs a couple of years later and decided not to go to university at the end of it. It took him some years to decide what he wanted to do and he is now doing a degree part time in an entirely different field from his original likely choice. "The first idea would have been a big mistake," he once told me.
I know not everyone can do it - and not everyone wants to. Not everyone will have a positive experience or learn something from it either. Perhaps though it would be wise to make it the expected thing. If someone decides they don't want to go to university at the end of it then is that necessarily a bad thing?   

Sunday 26 November 2017

Transport or no transport?

I have just been reading about someone else's transport worries. Her local station is under thread of imminent closure. She uses a wheelchair and the train service is essential.
Some time back our line was closed for a long period. The interstate gauge and the local gauge are different and the government decided to "put this right". What it meant was making one line a dedicated interstate line and leaving the other line as the local line. It made the local line a "single track working". They used it as an excuse to close several stations. 
When I was a kitten the train went a lot further up into the hills. It was, among other things, a fun day out for us. There was a lot to see on the trip. The line was well used. I suppose fewer people had cars and the "freeway" did not exist. Now people can belt up and down the freeway and prefer to travel in their cars.
That's all very well but for those of us who rely on public transport in any form it can be a disaster. The only form of local public transport I can use are the trains. I need to take my trike with me and I am not permitted to take it on the buses. It is classed as a "bike" rather than a "mobility aid". 
It means I don't go far unless Middle Cat acts as a sort of taxi service or someone is willing to pick me up. I am not comfortable about asking people to do that unless I can do something in return. No,  they shouldn't have to do it.
I fall between the cracks when it comes to eligibility for taxi vouchers too.
And, if they close a station, then I either have to ride further - or I just can't get there. I'm one of the lucky ones in that respect. For my friend it will be even more of a problem. Pushing herself to the next station along the line  just isn't an option.
There is very little sympathy around for this sort of thing. It's "well get a taxi then". Hold it right there. Taxis are expensive and "access" cabs are particularly unreliable because there simply aren't enough of them - especially at the times they are most likely to be needed. 
Tell people that and there is a shrug of the shoulders and they say, "Well, don't go anywhere then."
When someone points out that they need to get to a medical appointment there is, "Well, I suppose you do need to do that."
But if you want to go to a social event then forget it. "Look it's too bad you can't go but you can't expect to get help for something like that."
And the other day Middle Cat had to take me somewhere so that I could provide some communication assistance for someone at a medical appointment. She happened to mention this to a doctor and say that taxi vouchers for that sort of thing might help. The response was, "Perhaps she just needs to cut back on her charitable work."
But it wasn't charitable work. It was an essential service for the other person. Someone had to provide it. It allowed a doctor to provide a service in almost the same amount of time as he would to any other patient. There would have been no question about a profoundly deaf person taking an interpreter along so why should the needs of a person who uses another means of communication be ignored? And why should transport be such an issue? 
Transport issues can severely restrict a person's capacity to be employed but they can also impact on every other aspect of their lives. And yes, your resident cat is feeling grouchy and growling again. Am I being unreasonable?

Saturday 25 November 2017

We have no phone

at present. 
Well, we have no "land" line.
Phones in this household are a complex issue. The Senior Cat has a mobile phone.  I have a mobile phone - sort of. We also have a phone which runs through the VOIP system.
We have the latter because the Senior Cat finds that easy to use. He refers to it as "the land line". He still thinks of it as being like the old copper network. It works the same way in that he can make a call by dialling in a number - at least, by pressing the keys. He is happiest doing that. 
Most of his friends seem to be happy doing that too. 
Let's face it. It's an age related issue as much as anything else. 
When the Senior Cat was a mere kitten by no means everyone even had a phone. People wrote letters or walked around to see someone who lived close enough. Now they text or phone or get in the car.
A phone call  when the Senior Cat was young was made with some thought. It wasn't a casual thing. Anything outside the immediate area was a "long-distance" call and charged in units of three minutes.
Where I was born my parents had no phone. There was nothing available.  The Senior Cat and two other staff could see out the windows of their classrooms up the hill to where our house was. When my arrival was imminent my parents arranged that my mother would hang a sheet out of the front window and my father had permission to drop everything and rush up the hill to take her to hospital. A phone would have made things much easier. What is more it would have gone through a manual exchange and the person in the post office part of the local general store would have informed the hospital as well as the Senior Cat. As it was I arrived late and school holidays had begun. 
But, as a kitten, I knew about manual exchanges. We went off to the  bush again when I was mid-way through primary school. We went to a tiny place where everyone knew everyone - and everyone's business.  
We didn't have a household phone but there was one at the school - in the classroom the Senior Cat taught us in. It would sometimes ring in the middle of a lesson.  We would sit still and quiet while the Senior Cat answered it.  The local postmaster - who ran yet another general store as well - would only call in lesson time if it was urgent or long distance. At other times he would take messages and then pass them on.
We went to other places with manual exchanges too - manual exchanges and "party" lines where more than one family had to use the same line. You couldn't keep much secret and you never said anything you wanted to be kept confidential. The Education Office staff sometimes had to be reminded of that. The Senior Cat was acutely aware of it. My brother and I were permitted to answer the phone if it rang late in the afternoon and we were still in the classroom after school was out but we were under very strict instructions about how to do it. 
Now everyone seems to be connected all the time. I have been avoiding the mobile phone issue. I hate the idea. I have a pre-dinosaur model which only gets turned on if I am out. Only Middle Cat and the Senior Cat have my number. It has been there only for emergencies.
Now it seems that I need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of always being available to everyone because the "land line" hasn't been working. It will probably be available after someone comes to look at things this morning. The house has been quiet without any calls coming in. 
I know that access to a phone is a safety issue now - but there is something to be said for the quiet of no phone calls.

Friday 24 November 2017

The Foreign Pollcy White Paper

came out yesterday.
I put in a submission when public submissions were called for. It wasn't something I intended to do but a colleague emailed me and asked me to "say something about the languages issue".
Right. I could have said a lot. I said very little. From experience I know it is better to say very little - and have those you are addressing actually read it.They might even remember what you said.
What I had to say could be summed up as follows:
(1) We are not a linguistically able nation. 
(2) We have concentrated on teaching Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian in the belief that these are the languages we need for trading purposes
(3) We have failed to recognise the need for other regional languages and languages of global importance.
(3) There is a need for much greater linguistic ability and diversity if we are to even maintain our place in the world. Without increasing it we will fail.
Many Downunderites are monolingual. In a sense I am monolingual. I can use a few social phrases in many languages. If I have a dictionary to hand I can struggle and put a sentence together in a few. I know something (but not nearly enough) about many more languages - even, again with a dictionary, read some of them. What I can't do is speak another language fluently. I never had the opportunity to learn a language at school - apart from Latin. (I only did three years of Latin... it barely got me past the first declension.) 
All that came about  because I went to rural "area" schools until the last year of school. Languages were not taught in them then. The teachers were simply not available. 
Even then I was reading about other languages. Different ways of saying things fascinated me. It still does. I have gone on reading about language and languages. What all this has taught me is the importance of knowing at least two languages. I became increasingly conscious that throughout Western Europe almost everyone speaks at least two languages, sometimes three or more. 
When I write a communication board for someone who comes from Denmark or Sweden, Holland, Belgium or the like I often get told, "Do it in English and...." whatever language they are going to be surrounded in out in the field. They know that if it is in English instead of Norwegian or German or Italian or something then more people will almost certainly be able to use it.
I also know that, while English may be seen as the "universal" language by many, it isn't the only language on the planet. Too many native English speakers tend to be arrogant about this. They tend to assume that "everyone" speaks English or should be able to speak English.
So, I put my short submission in. Did they read it? Did they take note? There's a hint there that they might have noticed it. I suppose that's something. 
But I am still worried about my lack of linguistic ability - and that of so many others.

Thursday 23 November 2017

"Zimbabwe's a mess"

he told me, "And it isn't going to get any better."
We were waiting in the Post Office queue and it gave this man, a former farmer there, the chance to tell me what he thought.
He lived in the country when it was still called Rhodesia. He left when the talks about independence began. 
     "I can see what's going to happen," he told me years ago. I remember the conversation well. He had just sold the family farm - for something less than it was worth even then - and got out.
He's a decent man. He tried to treat his employees well. They were probably rather better housed, fed and educated than many. He saw to it that the children went to school and that medical attention was available. If the correspondence he still gets is any indication then yes, they liked him. 
But, he didn't feel he could stay. He left when the terms of then Rhodesia's independence were being negotiated.
     "I don't trust Mugabe," he said.
I know that not everyone agreed with him. They saw independence as the great opportunity. The country was in good shape. They could make a go of it.
I remember telling this man about the history lesson I had been given in school, the one in which our teacher had told us, "Put your books away. I am going to tell you what is going to happen in Rhodesia." 
Our teacher was absolutely right. He predicted the descent into chaos. This man reminded me of this yesterday.
He doesn't see the situation as improving either. Yes, there is now going to be a change of leader but will he be any better? He doubts it. 
     "Things may look as if they will improve for a bit but they won't. Emmerson Mnangagwa is not to be trusted. He was one of Mugabe's men for years. He is guilty of ordering many deaths. Morgan Tsvangirai can't do the job. He's not strong enough. He doesn't have enough tribal support. I don't think he's well enough either."
It's a gloomy view to say the least. It may well also be a very accurate one. 
      "So Zimbabwe was better off under colonial rule?" someone else asked as we moved forward closer to the counter.
       "It was different," came the response.
His turn came and he went to the counter. I looked at the other man who had spoken. He's a man of fairly radical views who will tell you he is "far left". I know he would have been trying to pick an argument.
      "I suppose you think he's right," he said - still eager for an argument.
I started to move towards the counter as someone else put their things in their bag and said,
      "Zimbabwe has sixteen official languages. That's bound to make for communication problems."
Behind me I heard, 
       "F..... hell, no wonder they can't talk to one another."
 Of course it isn't the only problem - but I am sure it doesn't help.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Animals do have emotions

and they do feel pain.
Apparently there was a vote in the UK parliament recently which denied these facts.
A couple of days ago I observed something very interesting. I was out with the rest of the family and we went to a venue which has, among other things, two alpacas on the property. They were just sitting there when we arrived. They looked at us and at the other visitors from behind the fence of their enclosure. They were I suppose "interested". At very least they were "aware". 
Some time later a small child, playing around as small children do, got herself caught on a low tree branch and couldn't get free.  There was some almost immediate and panicky crying.
The two alpacas were up in an instant. They rushed to the fence and stood there watching until an adult came along and freed the child. Then they went and sat down again in their former positions but they watched the child. Wherever she went their heads turned  - until she was finally led off for lunch.
I was reminded of another interesting event in this house. When two of my nephews were aged around perhaps not quite four and not quite two a former neighbour came in. He loathed cats. My nephews were playing on the floor and the cats had been nowhere in sight. On the appearance of the neighbour suddenly there were two cats between him and my nephews. He went to crouch down and talk to the older boy. No way! The fur of both cats was up. They hissed and crouched ready to spring at him. 
He had the sense to back off. 
We didn't think too much of it at the time. It was just a freak coincidence - or so we thought. But, the behaviour persisted. That neighbour could not get anywhere near the two small boys if the cats were around - and they seemed to know when he was there. 
When the Senior Cat was recovering from surgery the same cats spent hours apparently just asleep in the same room. It wasn't somewhere they normally slept. When he recovered they went back to their usual spots. 
There are thousands upon thousands of similar incidents which have been well documented.  All of them suggest some sort of thought processes and "awareness" rather than simply "being".
I have no idea what those alpacas or the cats were "thinking" - and I suspect their thoughts and memories are in images rather than words but I believe quite strongly that to suggest other animals cannot feel pain or a range of emotions is absolutely mistaken on our part.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Magic show!

"Grandpa's going to do magic!"
"He's going to make it disappear...and then maybe come back again."
"How did you do that?"
"Will you show me?"
Yes, the Senior Cat showed them some simple tricks - a "magic show" with five simple tricks.. He doesn't do much these days. He has given most of his apparatus to much younger magicians - one of whom is now making his (somewhat precarious) living from it. He has taught a lot of young people some of the art of conjuring.
And the kittens are fascinated, almost over-awed. He taught the oldest two a simple trick to do. The third girl can almost do it too. She will get some more help from "Grandad" - her grandfather rather than her great-grandfather. 
At least one of those "tricks" has been around since Roman times. It may be even older than that. It is a sleight of hand that still fools people. The Senior Cat has always tried to teach it - and other tricks - in a positive, fun way. We both know that some of those things have been abused - used to fool people into doing something like parting with money or valuables.
This morning the Senior Cat prowled out to breakfast and said, "I'm really, really going to miss them." 
Yes they head back to their home state this morning. We won't see them for another year. 
And then the Senior Cat also said, "I wonder how B.... is getting on."
He taught B... some conjuring tricks many years ago. B... lives in Israel now. He did his military service in Israel too. We saw a BBC video clip of him out on patrol. What the BBC didn't show and what B... didn't mention was the small "pocket tricks" in one of his pockets. When things got tense, when young Palestinians were throwing rocks B.... would bring out the tricks and do them.
They would stop throwing rocks to watch. He would offer to teach offer probably not often taken up but it was there.
I wonder how B... is getting on too. He's a grown man now.
Does he do "magic" with his children? Will they bring their children and grandchildren to be taught how to "make something disappear and maybe come back again"? 
Perhaps it's a useful life skill. 

Monday 20 November 2017

AC/DC is not my sort of

music but I at least know they were a rock band. The death of lead member of the band, Malcolm Young, was widely publicised here. He was considered to be a "local lad" and the manner of his going, dementia, was cruel. 
    "I thought only old people got dementia," Ms W told me. I had to explain otherwise.
She thought about this and then said, "That's really horrible. He probably lived a really crazy sort of life doing that stuff but he didn't hurt anyone."
No, as far as I know, he didn't. I wonder what sort of rumours are currently flying around about  what caused his dementia. If someone from the medical profession was asked they would almost certainly say they didn't know. That won't stop the on-line "experts" telling the rest of us.
I thought of that this morning as I read about the concern over the large number of suppression orders being made by our courts. I am not opposed to suppression orders. My view is that all cases should be subject to a suppression order. 
That view usually raises eyebrows but our courts are open. Anyone can walk in and listen to what is going on in the magistrates' court, the District Court, or the Supreme Court. You can, if you so wish, head off to the High Court.  I have been in all those places. What goes on in them is rarely exciting. Much of it is extremely tedious. It is very rarely the way television series portray it. I did once hear a joke made but it was a very, very rare thing - and both parties to the matter were in consensus as to what the outcome should be in the case. The Children's Court is, rightly, closed. Once, in a long while, courts will hear something "in chambers" or "in camera" - privately.
That might be done to protect a victim or a witness. It is not something a magistrate or judge does lightly. 
They don't make suppression orders lightly either. There have to be good reasons - and one of those reasons is the way things are reported. Professional journalists are normally responsible about such things - but not always. Selling news, particularly a big story, is more important than the rights of victims - and even the alleged perpetrators have rights.
People's lives have been ruined by the salacious reporting of cases in the past. They are even more easily ruined now by the unending commentary on social media. 
This sort of behaviour is starting to have flow on consequences into other areas. Recently I made a genuine attempt to get more information from someone. Rather than answer my questions I got a furious response accusing me of criticising - the last thing I was trying to do. People are taking offence where no offence is intended.
We might be saying more but we aren't communicating. 

Sunday 19 November 2017

Activity packs!

"I remember. You did it before."
The eldest kitten purred and found the one with her name on it. She and her brother were here a little before the others. 
"Come on!" she told her brother handing his over.
"Did you say 'thank you'," their mother asked.
"Thank you!"
They went into the other half of our living area and yes, the boy still upended his on to the floor while she started to pull things out.
The other three little kittens arrived about twenty minutes later. They saw what was happening. Anxious looks. Were they getting  something like that as well?
    "If you look by the door  you will find three more bags with your names on them, " I tell the eldest.
Huge grins - and no need to prompt a thank you. 
They all sit there looking at what is inside the bags. Biscuits! It doesn't matter that the mother of the girls has stopped at the bakery on the way.  Of course they can eat savoury twists AND biscuits.
Oooh chocolate frogs too!
How do you make this? The eldest is looking at the simple origami cat and dog face instructions. She has just turned eight. The seven year old from the other family looks at her in disgust and says, "Read the instructions."  The seven year old then proceeds to make one and shows the eight year old how to do it. The three little girls from one family do a lot more craft work than the other two. I help the five year old do it while Miss Three watches and then Miss Three insists on doing it too - and she does it with the appropriate amount of assistance. She rushes off to show her father who, being an excellent father, is genuinely interested. 
They ate things. They drank orange juice and water. They found more little things. 
    "There's a sharpener for the pencils." (I had included a tiny packet of 12 pencils about one third the length of the usual pencil.)
Miss Three had not come across a good sturdy eraser before. Her mother showed her  how to use it. Miss Three wrote "P" - her initial - and rubbed it out and then did it again and again. 
Eventually we gathered everything up and replaced what had not already been eaten in their bags. They went off to where they are staying for the next three nights.
Quiet descended. The Senior Cat went to sleep. I cleared up the dishes, their plastic cups ("you kept them from last time") and the various cups, saucers and mugs used by the adults. I swept the floor.
Later we went to join them for a barbecue. They had been to the "jumping pillow" and into the swimming pool. Now they were making "invitations" for the rest of us. The pencils were in use. The drawing paper was in use. There were cats and dogs - somewhat lopsided animals - scattered around "watching us do some more".
Today they are going somewhere else. Tomorrow we hope to take them to an adventure playground...and the Senior Cat is going to show them some "magic tricks".
And we still need to blow soap bubbles with the little party bubble kit I found in the cheap shop....if I have any breath left! 

Saturday 18 November 2017

Allen and Unwin have cancelled

the publication of a book. The news appeared in our state newspaper yesterday.
Delays in getting a book out happen all the time. All sorts of things can go wrong but withdrawing a book from publication is much less common. 
If the reason for failing to publish it is true then we have a major problem. The problem does not surprise me.  I have been aware of it for some time. I was just unaware of how far it had gone.
The book has been written by a professor at one of the state's universities. It concerns the "silent" influence of China on the affairs of this country - and the demands they are making in so many areas.
China is of course a very powerful country. The size of the population and the way that population is controlled make it even more powerful. You don't dissent in China. You don't criticise either.
And that makes it much easier for them to control dissent and criticism outside the country too. Those in authority can say, "Look, everyone here is happy. They like the way things are done. Don't criticise us."
And then they can say, "And if you do criticise us then we will take legal action and there will be consequences. We will win because we are much more powerful than you."
They most certainly don't want people to know how they really do business.
Not so long ago a friend here told me that her son, who set up a major business in China - a business which employs hundreds of local people and is very profitable for their local economy - was recently told, "Don't go back to China. You'll be arrested."
Our government won't let him return. They say it is too dangerous. No, he hasn't done anything wrong. He has obeyed all the relevant laws, paid all the relevant taxes and more. So, what's the problem?
It's simple. He hasn't paid the bribes.
There are still contracts to be met. Threats are still being made but he is a free man of sorts - unless he goes back to China.
It's just one of the many examples of how business ventures in China have gone sour for others. It seems many people have simply paid the bribes - and go on paying bribes. They don't see a choice. 
I have also had tertiary colleagues here and elsewhere complain about the pressure put on them to award higher marks to students from China - and some other countries. I have seen the work of more than one "government funded" student - the sons and daughters of high ranking officials - who were given higher grades than they deserved. I have seen them given passes when they should have been failed.
     "No, we can't fail him," is something I have heard too many times. 
But now it seems that the "influence" is ever more pervasive. It affects other parts of life as well. A look on the supermarket shelves will see "made in China" and "product of China". The Senior Cat is one of the most tolerant people I know. He has welcomed people of all backgrounds and faiths and beliefs into our home. He has been to China. He still tells me, "Don't buy food sourced from China." He knows how much of the food there is produced and he doesn't want any of us to risk our health. Still it is hard when major supermarket chains are obtaining more and more of their "home brand" products from China. Yes, they may be cheaper but are the associated risks worth the cut in price?
 I know, through my work, that some of our news is filtered by Chinese interests. There are things we are simply not being told. That's not good either. No country should be able to influence the news service of another country in that way. 
China's buying power is still immense. They are buying influence. "If you want to do business with us then you will..."
 If a major publishing house has cancelled a book critical of Chinese influence on our society then we should be worried. I don't know whether the book is good or bad, fair or not. I haven't read it. I may never get to read it. Of course I am now curious about what it says and I know other people will be too.
It also means that other publishing companies are going to be wary of publishing anything critical of China. They will look at Allen and Unwin and think, "No."
I wonder what the late Judy Unwin, a woman I liked very much, would have had to say about the way the old family firm had caved in. I suspect she would not have been at all impressed. 
If the Chinese had simply allowed publication and then come out with a rebuttal of the claims made in it they would have done themselves far less harm.

Friday 17 November 2017

"We need urgent communication assistance

this morning," I was told. 
For once it wasn't an advocacy group but the police. They had my name as "someone who should be able to help". 
      "Can you tell me anything else now?" I asked
      "Yes, we have a victim of a crime here but we are having problems because he can't communicate. They've taken some sort of thing which helps him to talk. He has a card with your name on it."
They give me his name., I don't swear. I want to.
      "He won't even have a drink," I was told.
      "He needs a straw," I said, "Please tell him I'll be on the next train."
I left a hurried message on the table for the Senior Cat. He was out with Middle Cat. I caught the next train with no time to spare.
I arrived feeling hot - and furious. 
I don't know this man that well. He was educated at home and then at one of the fee paying schools. I know his sister rather better but I know she's away at a conference right now.   He looks up and recognises me with the sort of relief that  almost makes me terrified - and angrier than ever. I have to help this battered and bruised and abused man communicate because - I learn this - two young thugs have taken not just his ability to communicate but his dignity from him..
Yes, someone had provided him with a straw in a mug of tea that looks strong enough to stand without the mug. It's the second lot of tea.
He still looks awful.
      "'re diabetic too aren't you?" 
He looks "yes" at the ceiling. 
      "Do you need something to eat?"
He looks "yes" at the ceiling again.
Someone goes to find something he can eat - a problem in itself as he can't chew a biscuit.
       "Are you still working at....?" I ask. Today is the day he goes in if he is. He has professional qualifications and works for the same firm as his sister.
He indicates yes again and  I get someone to ring his place of work and tell them what has happened. 
    "Your boss is in a meeting. He'll be over as soon as he can," he is told. I know he will come too.
And then we go through the slow process of getting information from D.  The two police officers want to ask open-ended questions. Without a communication device D...can only answer "yes" or "no" by looking up at the ceiling or down at the floor. I explain this and say, "D... is perfectly capable of explaining what happened if you give him time. "
     "Just go ahead then and we'll listen."
They decide this after some discussion. It isn't the way they work at all. They are used to being able to control the questions.
So I start at what I hope is the beginning. I have to frame each question so he can answer yes or no or follow his eyes when I get one of the policemen to write three words on three separate pieces of paper.  
The two policemen ask the occasional question - frustratingly still open-ended - and they ask me, not him although I say, "Ask him". The story comes out. It seems to take forever.
D...gets himself to work one day a week in his electric wheelchair. It's a major achievement for him. On other days he works at home via his computer set up. He normally has his communication device and also an old style communication board I helped to make him many years ago  which has been updated by his sister over the years. Neither are easy for him to use but they are a good deal more dignified than not being able to indicate more than "yes" and "no".  His boss arrives a bit over an hour later. It takes almost another hour before D... puts his thumbprint on his statement and his boss takes him off - to work. No, he is NOT going to miss going to work whatever has happened and however late it is. There's an important meeting this afternoon and he (thinks) he needs to be there.
They were still searching for two boys in their early teens when I left the station.
I came home and emailed a temporary and very basic board to his boss. The message came back, "Printed, laminated...D...says email later. Thanks very much from all of us here."
And later I had an email from D... all it said was, "thanks cat love  d"
It might not seem much to the rest of the world but he managed to type that with badly bruised fingers holding the stick he uses to hit the keys. 
The rest of us could learn a lot from him.

Thursday 16 November 2017

The Country Women's Association

is much more than a "gaggle of gossiping women" and the person who described them as such to me yesterday was told that. 
I was polite because the man who said this is a city dweller. He may not have come across the CWA - but he has eaten their scones. 
I happen to know he is fond of scones. His wife makes scones each weekend. He has demanded them - in the nicest possible way - from her ever since they both retired almost four years ago. He wants them home made and with home made jam and cream. 
His wife tells me, "He appreciates my cooking."
So he should. I have been the recipient of her Christmas biscuits on more than one occasion. Those wonderful buttery morsels don't do my waistline any good at all.  
And she makes a good scone I believe. 
I am not particularly fond of scones. I rarely make them. If I do I tend to use the CWA scone mix. I know. I'm lazy. It also happens to be an excellent scone mix. A lot of people use it.
Using the scone mix saves time. It also means that the scones are likely to be a success - something I can't always claim when I mix my own.
And there is another very, very good reason to use it. Money raised in selling it goes to a fund to help people in rural areas - people in real need. Out there in small communities where people know one another and a family member is suffering abuse or illness or bereavement then others will know. Not so long ago the CWA members in a small community used some of their funds to supply the materials to repair the building the local fire truck is housed in. The men went in and repaired it - and morning tea (with scones) was supplied by the CWA. Everyone benefits from something like that. 
So it was with serious alarm that I read that one of the big supermarket chains was going to withdraw the product from its shelves. They weren't prepared to pay more for the product although the company which makes it has been hit with a 50% increase in costs recently. They were asking for a 7% increase in what the supermarket chain was paying. No, we will only pay the old price they were told.
There has, rightly, been a community backlash. It will be interesting to see who wins this one. The CWA should win - but if the supermarket chain has a "home brand" scone mix waiting in the wings they won't.  
Fortunately other places will continue to stock the scone mix - if the company can afford to go on making it.
They had better because that is the mix that gets used each weekend to make those scones.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

The results of the "same sex marriage"

survey will become available today.
The answer will likely be "yes" and then the government will be criticised for "running a giant opinion poll" and "wasting taxpayer money". 
In the unlikely event the answer is "no" then the government will be criticised for allowing people to have their say and the demands will start all over again.
The debate of course is not yet over. There now has to be legislation go before parliament - and the nature of that legislation is going to be hotly debated.  It won't be as simple as saying "yes, same sex couples should be allowed to participate in a ceremony and say 'we are married in a way the law recognises' ".
The "no" campaigners also argued for the need for religious freedoms to be respected and for education about sexuality to be removed from schools.
I suppose I am "agnostic". I believe in the tenets of the Christian faith - the Ten Commandments and the "love one another" principles without which society cannot function. I don't believe in some of the stories except as being stories to try and provide people who could neither read or write with answers to some of the big questions about life. 
And it doesn't bother me in the slightest if people of the same sex wish to live together and make a commitment to one another and call it "marriage". My only cousin is in just such a relationship and his partner is one of the nicest people I know. I am very glad he is part of our family - and has always been accepted as such. Their relationship is recognised in the country they live in and I believe it should be recognised here.
I also know that not everyone feels that way. It has been the cause of much bitterness and division in some places - even in places other than religious institutions, places which are supposed to be "tolerant" of a wide range of  beliefs. I am sorry that has happened. 
I have no idea what the answer is to such a problem.
Yesterday I had a message from someone who, I suspect, is far from happy about the debate. He believes parliament should "just have legislated to change the marriage act" and "they should ignore all those people who say that it is against their beliefs in fairy tales". He wanted me to write a letter to the paper putting forward his point of view. I told him to write his own - and no, I wouldn't help him write it. 
There was a furious response. Our "friendship" is apparently at an end. It was never more than a casual acquaintanceship so it doesn't bother me at all. I am much more concerned by what will happen when law and beliefs clash in the wider community.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

I am changing my internet service provider

because the present company has advised me that they cannot provide me with the service I require.
All I want is a plain vanilla sort of service. I want to be able to download documents, upload documents, write the blog, do a little searching, "talk" to some friends via social media - AND use my email.
Since I was required to move to the NBN (National Broadband Network) I have experienced frequent (many times a day) drop outs. I have had to "reconnect" constantly. No, there is nothing wrong with my devices. It is simply that too many people are trying to use too small a bandwidth. 
Apparently it is a common problem. Companies, in an attempt to make an acceptable level of profit, are simply "not buying enough to supply enough". It is likely that the system itself will eventually not be able to supply what people need - even if companies are prepared to pay for it.
I don't watch movies or play games on my computer so I shouldn't need the "super fast" speeds being promised. I just want something reliable that won't drop out.
So I spent some time on the phone yesterday. The new company assures me it can provide me with something that "should be better than that" of my old service. I certainly hope so.
But, it leaves me with a major problem. I still need an email server. I would also - for about 600 plus reasons - like to retain my old email address. Today I have to tackle the old company about that. I am not looking forward to doing it. Our relationship is a little tense. I am leaving them - that it is at their suggestion not mine makes no difference.
I really don't have the time to email so many people, organisations, websites and more and tell them "Please change my address in your records". I know some people won't do that anyway and that when they want me they won't be able to find me. For most people that might be irritating and disappointing but in this case it could be life-threatening. Doctors in particular are busy people. They don't need to be bothered by that sort of thing. I can do the "BCC" trick for some people and send out group emails but I can't do it for everyone. 
But, if they don't let me keep the old address, then please bear with me as I work out a way to get a new one and tell everyone. Lives may depend on it.

Monday 13 November 2017

I nearly entered parliament

and am very glad it did not happen.
A long time ago now - or so it seems - I was at a meeting about a forthcoming election. I was there to listen to the "disability" policies of the major parties and provide some communication assistance for people who wanted to ask questions.
The usual things were said, "We'll do this...." and "We'll do better than that..." and "Our policy is...." "Inclusiveness..." Housing, employment, transport, support services all came out as ongoing issues. They are still issues.
On that occasion people banded together again and then they did something different. They put their own candidate up. He was a good man and might well have done a good job. 
     "Come on Cat," people told me, "We need another person on the ticket. You won't have to do it. We just need another name."
I told them no. Yes, perhaps I could have done it but I didn't want to do it. It wasn't that I felt I had done my bit - you have never done your bit. There is always something else that needs to be done. 
I just didn't feel comfortable about the idea about my name being there.
And there was, despite all the discussion, a surprise second candidate. She was very young and rather shy. I sensed a certain determination in her. "Good on you," I thought - and then told her so. 
Election time neared and - suddenly and shockingly - the first candidate on the ticket died. His name had to remain on the ballot paper by then. People voted for a dead man - and his votes passed to the very young and rather shy girl. She was in! It was a totally unexpected result.
Since then she has proved herself to be a good representative, very good. She has achieved more than many of those who have been elected, re-elected and then elected again. She has listened to advice and spoken up. Yes, she has had a good team behind her too. 
There will be an election in March next year. The parties are already working on it.  This time the party she represents will have other candidates too, candidates in the lower house as well as the upper house. 
Will they get in? I doubt it. It's a huge ask to get past the two major parties and an emerging party with an attention seeking clown as their leader. What they are working for is admirable but not always realistic. 
There's no lower house candidate for the group in my electorate. They cannot afford to run candidates in all electorates. 
But the once young and rather shy girl has grown up a lot and she will be looking for re-election in the upper house. It will be interesting to see if she succeeds. 
I will watch with interest and wonder whether it was some sort of premonition which made me avoid the responsibility all that time back.
It was a good thing I did. She has done a better job than I could have done. 

Sunday 12 November 2017

"You women are all the same,"

the irate male was yelling, "You shouldn't be allowed to drive. The Saudis have it right there."
I don't know what had happened. All I could see was two small cars in very close proximity to one another. Neither had any visible damage. 
The woman wasn't even trying to defend herself. She was just standing there looking visibly shaken. 
People were appearing and watching the male continue his tirade. He frightened me. My "fight or flight" response was definitely "flight".  There were, I thought, plenty of other people around to help.
Nobody did as I put my things in the basket on the back of my transport. He went on...and then he went too far.
     "Okay mate, that's enough."
I heard someone say this.
     "Nobody's hurt."
     "She didn't even touch your car."
That didn't seem to do much good either.
From where I was parked I can see down into the car parking area in question. There are arrows painted on the surface to direct the traffic flow. One of the cars was clearly going in the wrong direction. 
      "Someone wasn't looking at the arrow," I said to the male next to me. I know him by sight. I know his dog quite well. As dogs are not allowed inside the shopping centre both of them were waiting outside for his partner.
       "You're right," he said, "Here, hold her leash for a moment will you?"
He passed it over and went down. I couldn't hear what he was saying. He just said it quietly and without a fuss. He pointed to the arrow.
And yes, next minute the male was in his car. He reversed and then went fast forward. He went out of the car park faster than was safe. My last sight of him was a battered side door where he must, at some point, have failed to give way.
I just hope he didn't have an accident on the way to his next destination and hurt someone.
When I looked back the woman was on her way too - much more carefully.
The dog owner came back as his partner hurried out looking at her watch and saying the chemist had been busy.
All he said was, "Plenty of time dear. We won't be late for the service."
All I know about this man is that he was an officer of some sort in the army. He obviously still has a natural air of authority and a capacity to calm things down.

Saturday 11 November 2017

I have been making more poppies

and, so far, I have managed to remain on my daily target of four a day.
    "How many more of those things are going to make?" the Senior Cat asked me as I added more to the "to be finished" pile.
I don't know how many more. I am aiming on one hundred  of these. If I tell you that perhaps I will achieve it.
I only made 64 of the poppy bookmarks. I hope that was enough for the group last Saturday. Although I asked for any left overs to be returned to me I didn't get any. I just need to hope everyone got one. I didn't want a fuss made about those. It isn't the sort of thing people need to know. It is much more important to reflect on what the poppies represent.
This time the poppies are slightly different from those I made before. They are, like the poppies I made for the local library to use, made from acrylic yarn. They will, along with thousands of others, be sent for the War Memorial in our national capital to use.
One hundred seems an important goal to aim for because it will mark an important centenary next year...the end of World War I.
It isn't something to celebrate though. It too is something to reflect on - just as the various events around the country will provide the same opportunity today.
Later in the day someone else remarked to me of my craft side, "Making those means you're not getting much else done doesn't it?"
My unspoken thought was, "No, I'm not but the people who went to fight weren't getting much else done either. They were farmers, clerks, butchers, grocers, teachers, carpenters, builders, and more. They gave up all that - and some of them gave up everything. 
So I will go on making poppies. I will endeavour to reach my goal. It seems the right thing to do. It's a very, very small contribution.

Friday 10 November 2017

"There are roadworks"

the Senior Cat warned me before I left.
   "I know," I told him gloomily.
I have to plan my journeys carefully. There are places you cannot take a trike. Getting out of the way of roadworks safely can be a major undertaking.
They are "extending the tram line" and "extending the O-bahn" and "resurfacing" all in various places within the same small area of the city. It's chaotic.
Most people drive to work here. It's a very car oriented place. Public transport isn't popular. It is seen as slow and unreliable. People would simply prefer to "hop in the car and drive". There's a degree of laziness in that which is also acknowledged by many. Walk to the bus stop? Jog to the train? No. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's raining. It's windy. I'm going to the gym after work. I've got to go to the supermarket when I finish my shift. 
I  suppose I would do the same if I could drive a car. It would be nice to be able to walk out the door, get in the car and just go anywhere. I don't blame people in the slightest, especially when the trains only run once an hour at weekends. 
This time I thought I had the route planned. No. Because of the road works they have blocked something else off as well. I  know why. It is to stop drivers using it as a short cut. That's perfectly understandable but what about cyclists and pedestrians? We have to go the long way around too - and there is no reason to block that lane off to us too. Couldn't you put in a couple of concrete bollards just for now? 
As if that wasn't enough I discovered I couldn't get through the other obvious route either. It was temporarily blocked by a long low loader vehicle. I back pedalled again.
When I did get to my destination I discovered the office no longer existed. Despite what the website said it had closed. The receptionist for the associated business told me helpfully, "Try this - and gave me the phone number for an office in another state."
I didn't bother to tell her that the number was no use to me. I needed a person who could see, certify, and stamp documents. The  bank couldn't help either but suggested trying the courts - just down the road.
I went into the Magistrate's court and went through "security",
"We're worried about the dangerous...."
Yes of course. 
But they were nice and helpful. They found me a Justice of the Peace. I told him what I needed and why. He read it all through carefully. He stamped and signed and told me he hoped the only solution I had come up with would suffice. 
I posted the Tax Residency statements off and, avoiding more road works, went home - the long way around.
I have been invited out with our lovely over-the-road neighbour this afternoon. The only problem is that, to get to  the destination she wants to go to, there are - more roadworks.

Thursday 9 November 2017

Long hair, tattoos and

ripped jeans which were anything but clean. He looked a dirty mess too. He jogged up the station platform and asked me when the next train went. I said,
    "In about three minutes."
I pointed to the electronic sign he had missed. It's overhead and people do miss seeing it if they aren't aware of them.
He stood there staring in the direction the train would come from and said nothing else.
The train arrived. An elderly woman was having difficulty alighting. He sprang to her side. Took her shopping trolley and put it on the platform and held out his arm for her to take. She looked startled but let him help and then muttered her thanks.
    "Now you get on," he told me, "I'll get this on."
And next minute I was on, the trusty trike was on.  I thanked him rather more effusively. It is really nice when other people help with that!
He actually validated his ticket and went to sit a little distance away. The person next to him looked uncomfortable but he didn't appear to notice. 
And, when we reached the city, he approached me again and asked, "You okay getting off?" 
It's easy in the city as the train is level with the platform. He went off.
    "You can never tell can you?" someone said to me watching him go.
No, you can't. 
Later in the morning I had to go into the Magistrate's Court in the city to get some documents certified. On the way in someone who looked much the same but had, if possible,  even more tattoos held a door open for me.
     "Paying me f-ing fine, need to get me a bike like yours," he said.
I thought again, "You can never tell."

Wednesday 8 November 2017

I bought another book yesterday

but it wasn't for me. 
I like to buy books for other people and this is one I have bought more than once. It is a book every child should have. It makes a lovely gift for a newborn baby.
I have given the book to both the newborns currently living in our little street. I have given it to many others too.
The book is old and yet new. Timeless? Yes, almost certainly.
It is AA Milne's "When we were very young". 
I am even happier I bought it now because, in this morning's paper, there was a tiny article many people will miss. It was about the importance of nursery rhymes in helping to develop language and literacy in children. It was about the way in which these are being eroded by the use of electronic devices and the failure of parents to repeat them, over and over, to their  children.
Some years ago now I was waiting at the railway station. It had been raining and a small boy was jumping in the puddles. He was splashing and laughing and enjoying himself immensely. Happily his mother had the good sense to allow him to continue doing it while we talked. When he tired of it for a moment and came back to his mother I told  him,
       "John had great big waterproof boots on...."
I recited it all to him. He wanted it again...and again.
His mother didn't know it. She didn't know AA Milne as an author. Her knowledge of Winnie the Pooh was simply as a cartoon. I told her about the poetry and suggested she look in the library. 
Now it seems that children don't even get the basic nursery rhymes, that Humpty Dumpty has fallen permanently off the wall and the cow no longer jumps over the moon and nobody falls down anymore.
That was apparently of concern to researchers. 
It worries me. Some of those things are hundreds of years old but they still matter. They teach rhyme and rhythm and repetition and, when they become familiar,  they are a comfort to a child who can recite them to himself or herself.
Ms W has to do a school project and she was asking me for ideas. I think I might suggest she look at the background to some nursery rhymes and why they were important from the very beginning. 

Tuesday 7 November 2017

No, it wasn't the gun

that killed those innocent people in Texas. It was the person behind the gun.
I think we all know that.  However to use that as an argument for gun ownership is ridiculous. 
Recently I was startled by the daughter of a late friend showing pictures of her daughter, barely in her teens, with a gun in her hands. Father and daughter had been out shooting.
This family are devout Christians. I have no doubt at all they do their best to live by Christian principles and that they do their utmost to support their family, their neighbours and the wider community. Still, they go shooting.
After a little while I came to the conclusion that it is part of the culture, a gun culture. That "right" to "bear arms" is part of their lives. 
For me there is a vast difference between killing just enough to eat or otherwise survive and killing for the "fun" of it.  I will eat meat but we eat very little of it and, if it was not for the Senior Cat, I would quite happily go without it. 
But, other people see this differently. They see it as a "sport" and a "challenge".  It really is part of their lifestyle and their culture.
And that is what is going to be so hard to change.  
I think, indeed know, that I am fortunate to live in a country where no such "right" exists. That doesn't mean that we won't ever have a mass shooting or that people don't get killed by guns. For us though the difference is that a mass shooting brought about increased gun control and when a mass shooting occurs in the United States and we hear about it then the vast majority of us believe our gun laws are good - and could perhaps even be more stringent. 
And yes, the latest appalling and terrifying act of mass murder in the United States was almost certainly a mental health issue as well. The sad thing is that here the individual would have found it impossible to legally own a gun and much harder to obtain one illegally. 
How do you change a belief that gun ownership is a right? It's an enormous responsibility.

Monday 6 November 2017

Good news doesn't sell

I have noticed this before. Unless it is a story about your favourite football team having won the premiership then people don't want to know. 
Add a few negatives to the mix, an orphan and a disability in this case, and people seem to be even less interested. I suppose I should know enough psychology to expect that but it still disappoints me.
There was a lovely human interest story on the front page of the Sunday paper yesterday.
I remembered the young man. He was abandoned in a shoe box at an orphanage in Vietnam. He was born without fully developed arms and legs. His jaw was fused together and his mouth was so badly deformed he couldn't feed properly. Nobody, or so it seemed, wanted him. 
One person did. He was brought to this state and then, extraordinarily, a couple adopted him. They adopted all his problems too - the initial months in hospital and the years of medical treatment.
If the picture alone was anything to go by he has repaid others for their kindness in spades. His smile and that of his physically perfect young daughter said far more than any number of words.
I was briefly in our local library yesterday afternoon and I heard someone say to someone else, "That was a dreadful picture on the front page. They shouldn't put that sort of thing there. The kids found it upsetting."
And then someone else said, "Yes, it's wrong."
      "Should leave that sort of thing alone," another person added.
After Saturday afternoon I wasn't willing to risk another confrontation. I didn't have the energy.
So I just said quietly as I passed, "It's a wonderful picture, full of love." 
I went around into the first aisle and heard,
     "She is weird."
I think I'll stay weird if it means I care about that sort of thing.

Sunday 5 November 2017

I lost my temper yesterday

I didn't mean to do it. It's the second time in a month I have lost my temper, both times at the same venue.
It is time I stopped going to the group. 
I tried to do the right thing, indeed I did what I was advised to do. 
Yesterday I was descended on by two members of the group who refused to accept that I was doing the right thing. I felt threatened, so threatened I felt frightened. I should just have slunk off silently but instead I lashed out. I suppose it is what we cats do when backed into a virtual corner. Unable to reach my belongings and go quietly I had no choice but to endure some very public humiliation.
Yes, it's my fault. I should just have kept my mouth shut and my miaous to myself. I did keep my paws and claws to myself but I thought one of the two was going to not just verbally but physically assault me.
I then argued with someone else as I was collecting my things, someone I have very much liked and respected, the person who asked me to join the group many years ago. That's made matters worse.
I've never been in this sort of situation before. I am still feeling frightened by what happened.
I've apologised to everyone involved because, whatever might have happened and whoever was at fault, I could have behaved differently.
It doesn't make me feel any better. I am just feeling miserable. I just wish one of them would come and knock on the door. I'd ask her if she wanted me to put the kettle on. 
I hate arguing with anyone. 

Saturday 4 November 2017

The National Broadband Network

has, rightly, come in for a great deal of criticism. This household is one which is suffering from the consequences of a series of political decisions, union demands, technical ineptness, and more. All have combined to give Downunder a network which is less efficient than some much less developed countries. 
And the internet service providers, the companies which are supposed to provide the connections to the network, are of course about making a profit. They are not interested in solving problems for the technically inexpert like myself. Their "help desks" are staffed by technicians who don't know how to speak Plain English to people who need some help. They are not sympathetic towards people who don't know where to instantly find the icon they are talking about or....well, I am sure you understand.
And, I am a cat. I have clumsy paws. I cannot manage to do these things quickly or easily even when I am not under stress. So, a technician I  trust is coming today. 
He went through a few things with me yesterday. He was slow and patient. He told me things like, "In the bottom right hand corner there will now be X icon.  Right. Click on that." 
The only thing he doubted was when we did a "speed test". My download speed on this supposedly super fast new broadband network was 44kbps. I told him this.
     "No Cat you must be looking in the wrong place."
I told him I wasn't and explained what I was looking at.
There was a moment of silence and then  he said, "Unbelievable."
He told me to save it. He told me how to take a "screen shot" so he could actually see it, refer back to it perhaps. I did this.
I have done two more of these tests since then. They aren't much better, although this morning's test did manage to go over the magic megabyte - about one twenty-fifth of what it apparently should be.
For me the speed hasn't mattered too much because I am normally downloading documents, uploading documents and doing some searching. I don't play video games or watch movies. 
But, this isn't the service I have been paying for. I haven't been paying for the continuous drop outs either, or the constant need to "reconnect" to the wifi signal. And I understand that the ISP staff are quite able to do their own speed tests. Even without that they have known for months that I have been a frustrated cat. 
What is more I have now been told that the information I earlier supplied them with was enough for them to at least partially solve the problem - without any input from me.
There may be further growls to the management.

Friday 3 November 2017

Non-combat personnel

and humanitarian workers are the glue which hold a lot of fragile fabric together in conflict zones.
I don't know a lot about the official non-combat personnel in the armed services. They presumably get given orders to go and do things and then get on with it.  I do know several non-combat personnel but it isn't the sort of thing we talk about. We are much more likely to talk about something positive - knitting perhaps?
I do know, if only through mail, email and other non-contact means, a lot of other humanitarian workers. Their work is often very dangerous.
Some of them have not survived. The first person I knew who did not survive was someone very close to me. He knew the dangers but went in to help anyway. I'll never forget his father phoning me and saying, 
       "Cat, have you got someone who can be with you? I have some very, very bad news, the worst." 
If it was bad for me I still can't comprehend what it must have been like for his parents. They both died early and I am certain it was part stress at losing their only child.
Each year at school we were told the story of "Simpson and his donkey" - the supposed story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the stretcher bear at Gallipoli in World War I. The story we were told was not quite the truth but it served to tell us that non-combat personnel were also present and were also courageous people. 
Since then I have known, one way or another, many other stories of those who have died trying to do good in the violence around them or through an accident caused by the conditions they were working under. It isn't always something you hear about. Sometimes it gets into the local media, even a state newspaper, but often nothing is said.
It is for that reason I have spent some time in the past month making some poppies and turning them into books with the help of outsize paper clips. It is the anniversary of my friend's death tomorrow. I have made poppies for remembrance and turned them into paper clips to acknowledge those who attempt to hold us together under the worst of circumstances.

Thursday 2 November 2017

"I'm not allowed to do that,"

the small voice told me. He looked embarrassed too.
As well he might.
I was minding a just turned five year old for an hour while his mother was at the dentist. His grandmother had another appointment and I was asked to fill in at the last moment.
This household is I suppose prepared for small children. There is plenty of craft material, books, a few toys. 
Of course children of that age often bring something with them. This child had not brought anything. 
He can't read yet and books seem to have a limited appeal for him. He's not allowed to look at them alone at home "because he might tear the pages and we want to keep them nice".
Oh, right. Most of our books for younger children look well used. They have been well used.
I printed off a couple of colouring pages. That went well. He's neat and careful. It took quite a while. He told me about what he was doing but in a hesitant sort of way.
The next problem was scissors. One colouring page had a cut out you can put on an ice cream stick and turn into a puppet. I gave him a pair of "safe" small scissors. He shook his head. He isn't allowed to do that either. We did it together.
Granny arrived to pick him up a bit later. She admired his puppet and sent him to get in his car seat in her car.
    "How much of that did he do?"
I told her and asked about the scissors. She raised her eyes and stared at the sky for a moment and then said,
     "He starts school next year and I am worried sick. He's not allowed to do this...he's not allowed to do that...I've told (his mother) that being able to turn the pages of a book and use a pair of scissors are absolute basics. She wouldn't let him go to a playgroup or anywhere else. Now she is talking about home-schooling him because...well you can guess. When they were living in Jakarta he was almost never allowed to go anywhere and they had servants so everything was done for him. He can't even completely dress himself."
This is her daughter-in-law or I suspect the riot act would be read.  Her children were into everything.
    "I just hope she won't take that stick away from him. She will probably worry he will poke his eyes out with it."
A normal five year old should be able to use a pair of blunt pointed scissors. I handed them over to Granny and said,
    "Whatever his mother thinks he needs to learn to use them before he goes to school."
Interfering?Yes - but the consequences of not being able to do some of those things are much worse. 
School will be a shock.
I'll try and buy some more scissors today.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

"It's my favourite mug,"

is something I suspect everyone has heard. 
I was given another mug yesterday. The good friend who gave it to me knows I am fond of cats and this one had cats on it. It is lovely - not just because of the cats but because my paw finds the handle comfortable, something far from true of all mugs.
My breakfast mug was given to me by Middle Cat. There is a picture of a cat on it as well - a cat holding a computer "mouse".  I never use it at other times. It is rather large.
The Senior Cat's breakfast mug has a picture of his eldest great-grandchild on it  - then aged about four. He also has an "outside" mug given to him by our friend H... which says, "Real men like cats."
We have other "cat" mugs - and other mugs.
I thought of these this morning as I was looking through the paper. There was yet another article on some of the very strange research grants that universities have been given - for things like the demise of Chinese artisan tailors during the cultural revolution and the changing circuits of travelling movie theatres in Downunder.  They remind me of the grant once given to see whether trees provided shade. 
Read a little further of course and those acquiring the grants have tried to argue that such things have value or present day significance - like the one on 19thC Spiritualism which claims that it will help  us understand present day religious dynamics. Mmm... maybe.
But what about some research into coffee mugs? I am sure it would be valuable who is using what mug, when and how they use it.